Source: Autonopedia

parts of the anvilA good quality anvil is made of wrought iron or steel with a hardened steel top and is well worth the extra cost. Working on a bad anvil is like jumping on a heap of sand, whereas working on a good anvil set on a proper foundation is like jumping on a springboard-the rebound from one blow helps towards the next. Anvil patterns may vary for different purposes, but for general work it should have a long and finely tapered bick as shown in diagram to the right which is a `London Pattern' anvil standing on a welded angle steel stand.

Although the face or top of the anvil is hardened, the bick and table, which is the square part between the hick and the face, are usually left soft. When cutting off with a chisel, the work should always be moved to the table before the final blow to avoid damaging the chisel edge. On a new anvil the front and hack edges of the face .ire left sharp and it is advisable to round these offcarefully with a carborundum file or a portable grinder.

There are two holes in the face of an anvil; the square or hardy hole and the round or punching hole. It is a good plan to chamfer the edges of the square hole so that the hardy sits tight to the anvil face, this is also a convenience when using the hole for setting slightly curved bars. The liveliness or spring of' an anvil is much improved by mounting it on a wooden block, preferably made from a squared-up trunk of elm. This should he sunk at least 3' into the ground with the grain standing vertically. The disadvantage of setting up an anvil like this in the modern agricultural engineering shop is that the block cannot be moved out of' the way. It may he more convenient to have a fabricated steel or cast-iron stand hut, where space permits, it is a distinct advantage to have a wooden block.

Never, never use your chisel directly on the face of the anvil. Use some sort of "sacrifical" plate
between your work and the anvil face so you don't mark the anvil or else ...

Anvil Shaped Objects

You don't always need an anvil, especially if you are just starting out! What you really need is mass under the surface you're hammering on. This is especially useful, if you're like me, and start to get really into something new, spend lots of money, and then lose interest.

Nice idea for a hammer holder

Antique Sawyer's anvil

Examples of Hold Downs
collection of hold downs
This type of hold down is very effective. It is easy
to apply and easy to release. Simply set it on the
piece to be held down and tap it with the hammer.
Another tap releases it. These types of hold downs
are most useful for holding flat stock on the face
of the anvil.
spring hold down tool
Spring loaded hold down tool
from Bear Hill Blacksmith

This hold down uses a "Vise Grip"
drill press clamp (slightly modified).

Another spring loaded hold down.
Flipping the handle tightens the hold
down on the piece to be worked.
definitely over-engineered
Over-engineering at it's best!
But ain't it a beauty?
Norwegian Holdfast
A holdfast of Norwegian origin,
two pieces forge-welded together

Mushroom holdfast, see link below on how to make it
This is a "storyboard" on how to forge a hold down

Tips For Buying Used Anvils (from Squidoo)

used anvil buying tipsThere are a few subtle things to look for when anvil shopping.

Anvils vary quite a bit in price, anywhere from a quarter to 3 bucks per pound. A few decades ago, about $1 per pound was pretty standard. These days however, prices are kind of all over the place. It really is a question of the individuals involved in the sale, and whose the better negotiator. I heard of a few friends, that have paid considerably less that $1 per pound, some other friends who've gotten anvils donated to them for free, and some less fortunate friends, that have paid over $2 a pound. Now, for brand new anvils your going to pay around the five or six dollar per pound mark.

The important thing about buying used anvils, is having a sharp eye and know how for a quality anvil. Small chinks, pits in a used Anvil are to be expected. They're not a huge deal. Watch out for cracks, or extra large divots. Wrought iron is a good material for the anvil body. Steel is fine as well, and be sure to look for a face that is composed of hard steel. If you see an anvil made of cast iron, run away as fast as you can. Don't even consider buying one. You'll want an anvil with a good bounce. Your hammer should bounce quickly off a good anvil. If an anvil has been mounted properly, they will have a nice ring sound to them. If they're not clamped down properly, you won't get the same sound. The smaller the anvils (say less than 100lb) will have a very piercing ring, while a 300 plus pound anvil will produce a much more subdued ring. The heal of an anvil, as well as the horn, will produce a lounder ring. An anvil with a bad crack (or even not so bad crack), will not produce a good ringing sound.

The new anvils of the farrier style (longer heal and horn) that have a small waist and curved base are for lighter work. Tweaking or making slight adjustments to pre manufactured horseshoes would be one such suitable task. Don't use them for creating new horseshoes, or heavier duty blacksmith work. One advantage of farrier anvils is portability. Just be aware of their limitations. If you plan on doing heavy and frequent blacksmith work, don't buy any anvil less than 200 pounds. Otherwise, you just end up replacing your anvil within a year or less.

Knowing when to replace your anvil, is a valuable skill when it comes to looking at used anvils as well. You'll know what to watch out for. If your anvil face is so sway backed, that you can tell just by looking at it, then it's time to start shopping. Stress cracks are a sure sign to consider replacing your anvil as well. If larger pieces start to easily break off your anvil, it becomes a safety issue, and should be replaced right away.

Anvil Stands

Most people build their own and all of them are unique in one way or another. However, all of them fall into one or more categories:

My Anvil Stand

This was my original anvil sitting on a mesquite stump.
Resting on the back of the anvil is my drill press clamp hold down.
new anvil
My new anvil (Rigid model 5) with my hold down and the
hand-forged spikes for holding the anvil down on the stump.
I'm going to use my router to countersink an outline of the
anvil into the stump. That will allow the anvil to sit down
into the stump so it won't move laterally.

Examples of Other Anvil Stands

Instructions for this stand are available from the Instructables

Here is a DIY anvil stand. Instructions are on Imgur

Here's one made out of 4x4s. Cut the 4x4s to the height needed and then attached them together.

The center 4x4 does not have to be full length,
just long enough to make everything solid.
And two semi-circles help hold the anvil in place.

Too pretty for my shop!

click to view making this on YouTube
The instructions for this one are available on YouTube

This is a beautiful all-in-one unit. Not sure whether to put on the vise page or anvil page.
Guess which page won?

    Gee Mom, look what else I've found!

"One thing to remember is to talk to the animals. If you do, they will talk back to you. But if you don't talk to the animals, they won't talk back to you, then you won't understand, and when you don't understand you will fear, and when you fear you will destroy the animals, and if you destroy the animals, you will destroy yourself." -- Chief Dan George

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